Jim Lauderdale

The Hummingbirds

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A consummate Nashville songwriter, Jim Lauderdale has penned hits for folks like George Strait and Patty Loveless over the years, but he has long been underappreciated as a solo artist. One of Lauderdale's songwriting strengths is to craft seemingly simple tunes set around smart but not excessively clever lyrics, and several songs here serve as excellent case studies. On "Morning," he uses the start of the day as a metaphor to gently suggest the possibilities life holds that often slip by "as the afternoon pulls you away." The twangy, jazz-flavored "It's a Trap" utilizes the games cats and mice play to discuss human relationships. The title track, one of the disc's crowning glories, uses hummingbird imagery in a story of love renewed. Lauderdale's voice, while perhaps not slick enough for music row, is full of character and warmth. He can give a suitably rough edge to rocking honky tonk numbers like "There and Back Again" and "Rollin' the Dice," while also projecting a poignancy in the bittersweet ballads "I'm Happiest When I'm Moving" and "I Know Better Now." The disc's bluegrass-flavored closing cut, "New Cascade," creates a natural segue to his Ralph Stanley collaboration, Lost in the Lonesome Pines, an album released simultaneously with The Hummingbirds. The song also highlights Lauderdale's hillbilly roots and demonstrates how he effortlessly synthesizes them into a more country-pop sound. It wouldn't be surprising if more than a tune or two off this stellar effort were recorded by other artists (Kelly Willis has already covered "I Know Better Now"), but Lauderdale deserves to have his splendid original renditions recognized and enjoyed for their own impressive merits.

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